Well two out of three sure isn’t bad. Stuart Bingham has today seen off Li Hang and Tom Ford in Zhengzhou City, each by a 4-3 scoreline to capture the third and final APTC event of the 2012/13 season. His second APTC triumph in all following his early-season win in Zhangjiagang.
Aside from Stuart’s victory, with tour places and PTC Finals spots up for grabs from the Asian Order of Merit, there are other important implications arising from this tournament…
Following his earlier victories against Ken Doherty, Li Yan, Michael Holt and Huang Jiahao, Stuart lined up against Sight Right stablemate Tom Ford in the semi-finals today. A player with two PTC titles to his name himself already, Tom pushed Stuart all the way and led 3-2 at one stage, before Bingham hit back to take the last two and book his place in the final.
There he would play talented Chinese former professional Li Hang, a very capable player who has wins against former world champions Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott on his CV already. Again the final would be close, Li moving into a 3-1 lead before Bingham again showed his class by taking the last three to secure the title and become the first player this season to win more than one professional event.
As is well-documented, Stuart is currently enjoying the best spell of his career and is being fully rewarded for his commitment to competing on the circuit, at every event, large or small. I must admit to raising eyebrows at seeing certain names among the draws for the APTC events this season, indeed nobody could have criticised Stuart had he decided to give this one a miss, already being qualified for the PTC Finals courtesy of his APTC1 win and safely inside the top 16 at present.
But that is not Stuart Bingham and having now taken £20,600 and almost as many ranking points as he earned for winning the Australian Goldfields Open in 2011 for his efforts, who can fault him?
One man proud of Stuart’s success is his coach, SightRight guru Steve Feeney who told me today:
“It was great to see Tom and Stuart reach the semi-finals and to have another ‘SightRight’ APTC winner from one of the two.”
“Naturally I felt for Tom in losing to Stuart given that I work with both of them, but he went out there to do a job and he will be pleased.”
“Stuart has now won two out of the three APTC events and we are really proud of this. Both he and Tom have earned their places in the PTC Finals, along with Martin Gould and there are people calling me Mr Midas now, which is nice. Team SightRight – Winning is our business!”
Which brings me on nicely to the subject of Grand Finals qualification, with a total of seven places available via the Asian Order of Merit and to the winners of the three events. As this pdf demonstrates however, the qualification criteria for the finals this season is not the easiest to understand, given the fact that there are two separate Orders of Merit in operation this year.
What we can say with certainty is that Stuart Bingham will be at the finals one way or the other, while suspension permitting, so will Stephen Lee. Also looking to be safe via the APTC Order of Merit are Ding Junhui and Li Hang, while the likes of Robert Milkins, Tom Ford and Cao Yupeng who are just outside of the top four may also yet have chances.
As comprehensive as the World Snooker criteria looks to be, unfortunately it does not cover eventualities such as a player winning more than one APTC event or a player being suspended!
Similarly, the top four on the APTC Order of Merit, not already qualified for the main tour in 2013/14, will earn a place on the professional circuit. At the moment both Li Hang and Jin Long, both former professionals, look to be secure, while there are then three players tied on £2,200 for the last three places. As normal protocol applies, then the order will be determined by their best respective results, working backwards from the most recent event and Shi Hanqing and Cao Xinlong will also turn professional.
Next stop Gloucester, as the UKPTC4 event takes place from Monday…